Average Alakazam – ★★½
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone tells the story of the collapse and eventual redemption of a two-man Las Vegas magic duo, with a particular focus on Steve Carell’s Burt Wonderstone. His partner is Steve Buscemi as Anton Marvelton with Olivia Wilde taking on the mantle of their glamorous assistant Jane. Their position as one of Las Vegas’ top-drawing magician acts is threatened with the arrival of Jim Carrey’s Steve Gray as a ballsy street magician who sleeps on hot coals and abstains from urination for days at a time.
So to simplify things – Carell is Keith Barry and Carrey is David Blaine.
The character arc of Wonderstone is something we’ve certainly seen before in these types of American comedies. His ego gets so big that he no longer has any perspective on things and it’s only when he loses everything that he starts to remember why he loved something in the first place – in this instance, magic. He channels the shouty, obnoxious Will Ferrell of Wedding Crashers and Blades of Glory in the first half of the film before magically (groan) transforming into the charming Mr. Nice Guy that we’ve seen him do so well most recently in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Crazy, Stupid, Love.On paper all this adds up to mean The Incredible Burt Wonderstone sure ain’t the most original film of the last decade. But as a kind of pastiche of all those other comedies of the mid 2000’s, it works fine. Sure genre staples like Ferrell, Will Arnett, Vince Vaughan and Jon Hader are absent but in their place we get Buscemi, Carell and Carrey. Ace Ventura in particular doesn’t indulge his funny side very often anymore, with the last comedy “hit” he had coming almost a decade ago in the shape of Evan Almighty. He’s as rubbery and brilliant as ever here though, clearly relishing the scenery-chewing weirdo that is Steve Gray.
The 78-year-old Oscar-nominee Alan Arkin is great as Wonderstone’s inspiration and mentor Rance Holloway, unfortunately most of his best bits have already been ruined in the trailers. The film is a bit of a sausage-fest but Olivia Wilde is very pretty and deserves a mention for doing the best she can even if she isn’t given much to work with in Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley’s male-centric script which definitely fails the Bechdel Test.
The third act feels like it’s been thrown together to provide a quick resolution but problems be damned as it’s a pretty fun 100 minutes of mainstream Hollywood comedy that confirms i) we need more decent Jim Carrey comedies, ii) Vegas magicians have sensationally voluptuous hair and iii) the 2007 Mitchell and Webb vehicle Magicians no longer has to be the only film in your Netflix “films about magic I should get around to watching” queue.
USA / Directed By: Don Scardino / Written By: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley / Starring: Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin / 100min / Comedy / Release: 15 March 2013 (Ireland, UK, USA, Canada)